Tag Archives: Piping Plovers

HAPPY EARTH DAY AND WHY I JUST DONATED TO GREENBELT!

Happy Earth Day dear friends!

I hope you are doing well on this blustery morning, with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees and wind chill at 19. I imagined these temperatures were behind us and am worried about that one little PiPl egg. Will it be viable after this cold snap??

This morning in my inbox there was yet another awesome email from Greenbelt, this time featuring Greenbelt’s commitment to conserving farmland, with a short video of the Grant Family Farm at Brown Spring.

Chris Grant was able to purchase the farm at Brown Springs because of Greenbelt’s Land Trust program and great use of West Newbury’s Community Preservation Act funds (CPA). The land can never be developed and will stay a working farm forever through Chris and Greenbelt’s diligent work to put it under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction.

I am so looking forward to visiting the farm stand when open in June! For the latest updates from the Grant Family Farm, visit their Facebook page here and website here.

I can’t mention Greenbelt without giving thanks to Gloucester’s Piping Plover advisor-in-chief Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship at Greenbelt.  Greenbelt does not, nor has ever, requested a fee from the City for their Piping Plover assistance. As you may recall, Dave is also Greenbelt’s Osprey program director – so there you have it, a multitude of reasons for supporting Greenbelt!!

EBSCO and the Law Office of Donald M. Greenough have generously offered to match, dollar for dollar, the first $5,000 raised in celebration of Earth Day.

To learn more about ECGA’s Earth Day fundraising go here. 

To become a member of ECGA go here.

 

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE 2020: THE YEAR IN PICTURES, MOVIES, AND STORIES

Several years ago my husband suggested I write a “year end” wildlife review about all the creatures seen over the preceding year. That first review was a joyful endeavor though daunting enough. Over the next several years the reviews became more lengthy as I tried to cover every beautiful, wonderful creature that was encountered on woodland hikes, beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and our own backyards and neighborhoods. 2020 has been a very different year. There were just as many local wildlife stories as in previous years however, the pandemic and political climate have had far reaching consequences across geographic regions around the world, touching every living creature in the interconnected web of life we call our ecosystems.

This first year of the global pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on wildlife and their habitats. In urban areas in developed countries, perhaps the economic slowdown afforded wildlife a break, with less pollution, less air travel, and some wild animals even reclaiming territory. Though the true downside of Covid-19 is that the pandemic has had an extraordinarily harmful impact on wildlife in rural areas and in less developed countries People who are dependent upon tourism, along with people who have lost jobs in cities and are returning to rural areas, are placing increasing pressure on wildlife by poaching, illegal mining, and logging. As mining and logging destroy wildlife habitats, animals are forced into ever shrinking areas, causing them to become sick, stressed, and to starve to death. These same stressed wild animals come in contact with people and farm animals, creating an ever increasing potential to transmit horrifically deadly illness, diseases such as Covid-19.

There are many, many organizations working to protect wildlife and conserve their habitats. I am especially in awe of one particular grass roots non-profit organization located in Macheros, Mexico, previously featured here, Butterflies and Their People. Co-founded by Ellen Sharp and Joel Moreno Rojas, the work they are doing to both protect the butterfly’s winter habit and provide employment for the forest’s guardians is outstanding.

All the butterfly sanctuaries (their winter resting places), are closed this year due to the pandemic. Dozens of people in the tiny town of Macheros are wholly dependent upon the income received by the work they do protecting the butterfly trees from illegal logging, as well as income from the tourist industry.  Ellen, Joel, and their team of arborists have come up with a wonderfully creative way to bring the butterflies to you. For a modest fee, you can sign up to “Adopt a Colony” to receive monthly newsletters and video tours of the Monarchs at Cerro Pelon. The newsletters are written by Ellen, who writes beautifully and clearly about the month-by-month current state of the butterflies in their winter habitat, as well as human interest stories drawn from the community. To subscribe to “Adopt a Colony” from Butterflies and Their People, go here.

We can be hopeful in 2021 that with a new administration, a much greater focus will be paid by our federal government to stop the spread of the virus in the US as well as around the globe. Not only is there hope in regard to the course correction needed to battle the pandemic, but the Biden/Harris administration has made climate change and environmental justice a cornerstone of their platform, including measures such as stopping the environmental madness taking place along our southern border and reversing many of the previous administration’s mandates that are so harmful to wildlife and their habitats.

Around the globe, especially in less developed countries, the pandemic has set back environmental initiatives by years, if not decades. We are so fortunate in Essex County  to have conservation organizations such as Greenbelt, MassWildlife, The Trustees, and Mass Audubon; organizations that protect the sanctity of wildlife and recognize the importance of protecting habitats not only for wildlife but equally as important, for the health and safety of human inhabitants.

The following are just some of the local images and stories that make us deeply appreciate the beauty of wildlife and their habitats found on Cape Ann and all around Essex County. Each picture is only a brief window into the elusive, complex life of a creature. Every day and every encounter brings so much more to observe, to learn, to enjoy, and to love.

To read more, each image and story from the past year is Google searchable. Type in the name of the creature and my name and the link to the story and pictures posted on my website should come right up.

Some Beautiful Raptors of 2020 – Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl, American Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Snowy Owls

 

Essex County Greenbelt’s Osprey pair, Annie and Squam, successfully fledged three chicks, Vivi, Rusty, and Liz (nestling photo courtesy ECGA)

Dave Rimmer video from the Osprey cam at Lobstaland

The Snowy Owl Film Project was completed in March, with the objective of providing pandemic- virtually schooled kids a window into the world of Snowy Owls in their winter habitat (see all five short films here).

 

Spunky Mute Swan Cygnets

Utterly captivated by the winsome Red Fox Family

A tiny sampling of the beautiful songbirds that graced our shores in 2020 – Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, American Robins, Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, Snow Buntings, American Pipits, Horned Larks, and Eastern Bluebirds

 

A new favorite place to film is at my friend Paul’s wonderfully fun sunflower field in Ipswich, School Street Sunflowers. Beautiful Bobolinks, Common Yellowthroat Warblers, and Bluejays were just some of the songbirds seen feasting on the expiring seedheads  of sunflowers and wildflowers growing amongst the rows of flowers.

Graceful White-tailed Deer herd of adult females and youngsters

Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and juvenile Little Blue Herons delight with their elegance, beauty, and stealth hunting skills. Included in the montage is a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron that spent the winter at Niles Pond

A fraction of the different species of Shorebirds and Gulls seen on Cape Ann this past year – Dowitchers, Killdeers, Black-bellied Plovers, Common Tern, Least Tern, Laughing Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Glaucus Gull, and rarely seen Dovekie, or”Little Auk.”

Cecropia Moth life cycle unfolding in our garden, from mating, to egg laying, to caterpillar, to adult.

 

Dozens and dozens of orb spider webs draped a small patch of wildflowers. The dream catchers were attracting Cedar Waxwings to feast on the insects caught in the webs. The following day I returned after a rainstorm. The webs had melted away in the downpour and the Waxwings had vanished into the treetops.

Harbor and Gray Seals hauled out on the rocks at Brace Cove, as many as 28 were counted on a winter’s day!

Piping Plovers and Marshmallow Montage

In 2020, our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover pair fledged one chick, nicknamed Marshmallow. Despite the global pandemic, a group of super dedicated Piping Plover Ambassadors worked tirelessly from sunrise until sunset to help ensure the safety of the Piping Plover family and to help educate beachgoers about the beautiful life story of the Plovers unfolding on Gloucester’s most popular beach destination. We worked with Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, the Gloucester DPW, and Gloucester City Councilor Scot Memhard, with much appreciated advice from Mass Wildlife Coastal Waterbird Biologist Carolyn Mostello.

Read more about Marshmallow, the Ambassadors, and the Piping Plover Film Project here.

Piping Plover Marshmallow Montage, from egg to thirty-eight days old. Filmed at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

MONARCHS!

It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, infinitely educational, and beautifully challenging journey creating my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterflies. The film was released in February 2020, but because of the pandemic, was not seen by the public until August, when it premiered (virtually) at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival. Beauty on the Wing has gone on to win honors and awards at both environmental and children’s film festivals, including the tremendous honor of Best Documentary at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. I’ve just received the very attractive award in the mail and have not had time to post a photo yet.

Beauty on the Wing portrays Cape Ann in the most beautiful light and I think when we are ever able to have a live premiere in this area, local friends will be delighted at the outcome. Joyfully so, Beauty is now being distributed to schools, libraries, institutions, and the travel industry through American Public Television Worldwide.

Beauty on the Wing continues to be accepted to film festivals and I will keep you posted as some are geo-bloced to this area, including the upcoming Providence Children’s Film Festival.

 

Last but not least, our wonderfully wildy Charlotte, little adventurer and nature-loving companion throughout the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEAST TERN BABES AT BEAUTIFUL WINTHROP SHORE RESERVATION

Several weeks ago on my way home for work, I stopped by one of my favorite places to film and photograph, Winthrop Shore Reservation. I began filming there several years ago because I thought it would be super helpful for our community to understand what was happening with Piping Plovers at beaches similar to Good Harbor Beach, similar in that they are urban beaches located in densely populated neighborhoods and are managed without the 24/7 protection of the Trustees (Crane Beach) or the USFWS (Plum Island).

What I discovered there was so much more than the story of WSR Piping Plovers and have since been filming and documenting many species of birds that call Winthrop Shore Reservation home throughout the four seasons, including the Least Tern colony, Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, a family of Great Blue Herons, Oystercatchers, and Killdeers.

On my visit of several weeks ago there were so many Least Tern nestlings, fledglings, and juveniles, I was afraid to walk through the rocky shore for fear of stepping on a nestling. In their soft hues of buffy peach, gray, and ivory, the wee ones were perfectly camouflaged, tucked in and amongst the wind- and weather-worn monochromatic stones.

Tiny Killdeer chicks and newly hatched Piping Plovers were also running about the Tern colony. I left with a heart full of joy at seeing so much new life in such an extraordinary location, extraordinary in the sense that it was only a few short years ago that Winthrop Shore Reservation underwent a major restoration, renovation, and renourishment project, which was undertaken by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation. I’d say the renourishment aspect of the project has been a whopping success!!!

Ready for take-off!

Piping Plover and Killdeer chicks at Winthrop

Nesting Least Tern

Least Tern in flight

DEBUNKING PIPING PLOVER MYTH #4, WINTHROP BEACH IS AMAZING, AND LOTS OF SEX ON THE BEACH

Fishing For Sex

Least Tern One Day Old Chicks!

Two-Day-Old Least Tern Chicks

STUCK BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

PANDEMIC PANDEMONIUM AT CAPE ANN BEACHES

A people and parking pandemonium marked the second weekend in July at Cape Ann beaches during the global pandemic. Mayor Sefatia, Chief Conley, City Council, and the DPW have been working to address last weekend’s pandemic pandemonium so same is not repeated.

The City of Gloucester has closed the parking lots at its three most densely populated beaches, Wingaersheek, Good Harbor Beach, and Stage Fort Park, to resident parking only. In addition, new no parking signs are being installed on residential streets this week, which include towing warnings. Gloucester is not the only community struggling with massive numbers of day trippers overcrowding beaches and parking illegally. Rockport is also experiencing many similar issues.

The amount of parking tickets issued last weekend shattered all previous records. According to  Gloucester Times reporting by Taylor Ann Bradford, 478 tickets were issued, totaling approximately $31,000.00. Chief Conley states during the same weekend last year only 154 tickets were issued.

How will the City manage the issue of WALK-ONS? Without addressing this key component, nonresidents will continue to find places to park illegally and pour onto Good Harbor Beach. The parking lots at both Shaws and Stop and Shop were nearly filled to capacity on both Saturday and Sunday. You need only drive down Nautilus Road and watch the mass of beachgoers filing along, packed with a days worth of fun in the sun equipment, to understand the extent of the problem.

The parking lots need attendants during the entire time they are open. The word has gotten out that it’s free and unstaffed in the afternoon. On both weekend days at 5:00pm, the lot was filled to capacity however, cars were continuing to pile in.

Several of our parking attendants have tested positive for covid-19. I feel deeply for City dwellers and out-of-towners that want to come and enjoy our beautiful beaches but we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the first concern is for the safety of our community.

Nonresidents have alternatives to Good Harbor, Wingaersheek, and Stage Fort. Governor Baker has opened all DCR Northshore beaches, including Salisbury, Winthrop, Revere, Lynn Shores Reservation, and Nahant. These state run beaches have the facilities and staff to deal with the inordinate pandemic-sized crowds. Additionally, the police patrol beaches such as Revere on horseback. For Massachusetts residents parking is $10.00 at Nahant and $14.00 at Salisbury.

Stay Safe Friends! Please, WEAR MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCE! It shouldn’t be one or the other, but both!

Because the Piping Plovers are continually brought up as a reason for the beach overcrowding the following has been added to the original post –

Edited Note regarding the conservation areas set aside at Good Harbor Beach. A roped-off corridor eleven feet wide was created last spring, which runs the length of the entire beach. This corridor was established to help shore-up the dunes. We think protecting the dunes is a fantastic idea and you can already see positive results. Later in the spring, on April 17, an additional area was roped off for Piping Plover protection by the conservation agent. It was noted at the time that this area was twice as large as in previous years. The extremely large area we felt would obviously and unnecessarily frustrate the community and beach goers once the season was underway. Following that, at the time the nest exclosure was installed many weeks later, on May 29th, it was again noted and summarily dismissed that the area was unnecessarily too large. It’s not possible to change the size of the roped off area now while the PiPl chick is still present at GHB, but hopefully in the future there will be improved communication. Regardless of how anyone feels about Plovers, they are not causing the overcrowding, parking lot, and off street parking pandemonium.

 

 

 

PIPING PLOVER CHRONICLES – WE LOST A NEST – AND SOME GOOD NEWS

Hello Friends, update on the Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach and other PiPl news-

First, a bit of sad news. We lost the second nest at Good Harbor Beach, which was located at area #1, the opposite end of the nest at #3, down by Salt Island Road. It only had two eggs and the exclosure installation was scheduled for Monday.

Good Harbor Beach Nest at Area #1

There is no way of knowing what happened because it was very windy yesterday and the tracks of predator or pet have been blown away.

There is the strong likelihood that the pair will renest and they appear to be making attempts to however, it is getting rather late in the year. This would be truly historic to have two nests at GHB if they do renest.

The good news is that our pair at #3 are coming along beautifully. They are constantly brooding the eggs and are doing an awesome job defending their “territory” against avian species (real and imagined predators) that fly onto the scene including sparrows, finches, Mockingbirds, gulls, and Crows. No bird is too small or too large to escape defense of their territory.

Good Harbor Beach Papa Plover brooding eggs.

A bit of amazing news –there is a Piping Plover nest for the first time ever in Quincy! More to come on that 🙂

Massachusetts is at the forefront of Piping Plover recovery and we can all be so proud of our local and state agencies and how they are managing beaches for both people and wildlife to share, despite the global pandemic. Just some of the organizations include Mass Wildlife, Massachusetts Department of Conservation, Essex Greenbelt, The Trustees of Reservations, Parker River National Wildlife USFWS, and many, many more. Thank you Massachusetts Piping Plover partners for all you are doing to help this tiny threatened shorebird.

On a separate note, over the past several days I have been filming a beautiful nest of four PiPl chicks hatching at a location in the area. It was amazing to witness, so very life reaffirming, and pure joy to see. Hopefully I’ll have time tomorrow to share more of the photos.

In this one photo,  you can see the hole where the chick is just starting to peck its way out (far left egg). I had lost track of the days with this particular family and only stopped by to check, not realizing it was “the day.” I said to myself, I don’t recall seeing that big black spot on that egg. After studying it for a few moments, I realized there was movement beneath the hole in the shell. Hatching was about to begin at any moment!

Piping Plover nest with egg cracking!

FRIENDS CHECK OUT THIS SUPER INTERESTING AND FAMILY ORIENTED ZOOM WEBINAR I AM PARTICIPATING IN, ALONG WITH WITH JOHN NELSON AND MARTIN RAY

Save the date for the Zoom event “Try Birding in Your Own Backyard” with fellow guests Martin Ray and John Nelson, moderated by Eric Hutchins and hosted by Literacy Cape Ann.

So very much looking forward to participating and so very honored to be asked.

Try birding in your backyard!
Zoom in for something fun on summer solstice eve!
Three of our favorite chroniclers of birds and nature share birding tips and experiences via Zoom and all are invited. Literary Cape Ann presents authors/naturalists John Nelson, Kim Smith and Martin Ray on Friday, June 19, from 6:30 to 7:30 for a lively talk the family will enjoy. Learn ways not just to observe birds but to capture your experience with birds via blogs, journals, photos or sketches. Make some popcorn, gather your family and join us.

Check in with the Literary Cape Ann Facebook page on June 19 for the Zoom link.

WE HAVE THE ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES SIGNS FOR THE PIPLS!!!

Thank you to Mayor Sefatia, Councilor Memhard, and to all our Gloucester City Councilors, Gloucester DPW, Gloucester Conservation, Gloucester City Admin, and to anyone and everyone who helped get the signs posted at Good Harbor Beach. We are beyond grateful and appreciative!

We’d especially like to thank everyone who took the time to write your emails to the City Councilors. Letter writing and emails truly help and I think a great many wrote.

 <3 <3 <3 

There are approximately nine signs running the length of the beach. This is a good first step, and as the birds become settled at their nests, hopefully we can increase, or rearrange, the signs to reflect where the birds are nesting.

So many thanks again to Councilor Memhard and Mayor Sefatia, and to all who lent a hand in helping to inform the community about the Good Harbor Beach nesting Plovers. The PiPls thank you, too!.

 

WHY ARE THERE STILL NO ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES SIGNS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH?

It is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. As of this morning, at 10am, there are still NO threatened and endangered species signs posted at Good Harbor Beach.

Despite the pandemic, every other city and town along the Massachusetts coastline that has threatened and endangered birds nesting on their beaches has SIGNS.

Friends, I hate to ask you, but if you could, Please share this post and please write to your Councilors (see address below). Thank you!

This is why we need signs and the reason could not be any clearer.

Woman leaving the dunes after going to the bathroom (not posting her going to the bathroom photo)

and cutting through through the nesting area.

As I was leaving the beach several nights ago and turned to have one last look at how beautiful was the light, the woman in the photos was cutting through the nesting area to use the dunes as a bathroom. You can’t blame the beachgoers for cutting through the nesting area because there is not a single sign at GHB explaining about the birds. 

The lack of signage is just plain cruel to the birds. And it is equally as cruel to our citizens because what if, God forbid, a beachgoer accidentally steps on an egg or stray ball injures a Piping Plover? How terrible will they feel, and how many tens of thousands of dollars will we be fined by the state and federal government if there is a take?

Why are signs so important and impactful? For the simple reason that they alert people to the presence of the birds. They are used at every beach along both the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, as well as at lakes regions.

Please don’t write to say the City is short of manpower because we have a very simple solution. Essex County Greenbelt has signs. They are willing to put them up immediately and only need the go-ahead from the City. 

Additionally, who will we call when the inevitable eggs are laid? Gloucester’s conservation agent applied for, but was denied, a permit, for her lack of experience.

We have been writing letters to the City, beginning this past January and prior to the pandemic outbreak, to try to understand the City’s overall plan for the Piping Plovers, but we have been completely stonewalled. We were assured months ago that “everything was under control.”

It is utterly ridiculous that we are being put in this position of endless letter writing to beg for signs, especially during the pandemic when we have families and work to take care of. 

This year we thought was going to be easy, with the new dog ordinance for the beach, Greenbelt’s trusted assistance, and a cadre of people who care deeply about the birds, along with their willingness to spend time monitoring tiny chicks at Gloucester’s most popular and populous of beachesAfter four years of working toward improving conditions for the nesting shorebirds at GHB, the PiPls are being thrown under the bus for what we can only surmise are personal and political reasons.

It is my understanding that Governor Baker made continuing to protect endangered species part of the original essential worker pandemic plan and that is why state wildlife officials have not been furloughed.

A Piping Plover update from the City administration is planned for the City Council meeting Tuesday at 7Pm.  It is a live Zoom meeting. I think a link will be provided and I will post that here and on Facebook.

If you have not already done so, and you have a spare moment, please write to our City Councilors. 

Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:

Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help

Dear City Councilors,

Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.

Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.

Your Name

Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Our Good Harbor Beach mated PiPl pair courting – Papa fanning his tail feathers and bowing, all for Mama’s benefit. Photo taken yesterday, May 21, 2020.

Here is a timeline compiled based on film footage, photos, and notes. As you can see, because of the timely assistance provided by Greenbelt, at this time last year, our chicks more than half way to hatching. We don’t even have eggs yet this year!

2019 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach 

March 25  Piping Plover pair arrive GHB.

March 27  Symbolic fencing and signage installed by Greenbelt at areas #3 and #1

April 28  First egg laid (estimated date).

May 3  Greenbelt installs wire exclosure.

May 4  Adults begin brooding all four eggs.

May 31  Four chicks hatch.

2020 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach

March 22 Piping Plover pair arrive at GHB

March 27  11.5 foot deep narrow strip of symbolic roping is installed along the length of the entire beach. No one has responded from the conservation office re. Is this meant to protect the dunes? It is much, much narrower than the area delineated the previous four years by Greenbelt.  No signs installed at this time, as they had in previous years at the time of installing roping.

April 17  Symbolically roped off area widened by boardwalk #3, the area where the PiPls have nested and courted the previous four years. No signs installed at this time.

May 11  A second pair of PiPls is trying to become established at GHB.

May 13  Still no signs, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

May 21 Exclosure erected at Coffins Beach for nesting PiPls. Installed by Greenbelt.

May 22 Still no threatened or endangered species signs at Good Harbor Beach, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

 

CALL TO ACTION: GLOUCESTER PLOVERS NEED OUR HELP

Despite the fact that our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers arrived 3 days earlier this year (March 22), they are struggling to become established. While the weather has been cold and windy (I think they like wind even less than freezing temperatures), the problem is largely due to dog and human disturbance in the nesting area. This is not the fault of beachgoers. The difficulty stems from a complete and utter lack of signage at Good Harbor Beach. There are no signs at any entrance, but more importantly, there are no signs on the fence posts around the nesting area.

The above are the informational signs we have had the previous four years, from 2016-2019, which were installed by Essex County Greenbelt. Last year, the Piping Plovers arrived at Good Harbor on March 25th. Two days later, on March 27th, Greenbelt had installed protective symbolic roping and signs. The PiPls early arrival and early assistance from Greenbelt helped the Plovers to establish a nest early in the season.

Why don’t we have signs? No one knows; it is an utter mystery. Greenbelt has time and again offered their assistance to the City and volunteered to install signs, so it is not a question of coronavirus, available man power, or time.

Why is it so important to help the PiPls as soon as they arrive? Because the earlier in the season they are able to nest, the older the chicks will be when the beach becomes busy, the earlier the chicks will fledge, and the sooner they will be off the beach, which will give them the greatest chance of survival. It was thanks to Greenbelt’s assistance last year and because of our fantastic corps of volunteer Piping Plover monitors that we were able to successfully fledge three chicks last summer.

How can you help? It’s a great deal to ask of people during coronavirus to care for, and write letters about, tiny little shorebirds, but people do care. For over forty years, partners have been working to protect these threatened creatures and it is a shame to put them at risk like this needlessly.  We have been working with Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and he has been beyond terrific in helping us sort through the problems this year; however, I think if we wrote emails or letters to all our City Councilors and asked them to help us get signs installed it would be super helpful. Please keep letters kind and friendly, or just simply copy paste the following:

Subject Line: Piping Plovers Need Our Help

Dear City Councilors,

Gloucester Plovers need our help. Please ask the Conservation Commission to install the threatened species signs at the symbolically cordoned off nesting areas and at the entrances at Good Harbor Beach.

Thank you for helping these birds raise their next generation.

Your Name

Link to all the City Councilors, but I believe that if you send one letter and also cc to Joanne Senos, a copy will be sent to all the City Councilors. Her address is: JSenos@gloucester-ma.gov

Here is a timeline compiled based on film footage, photos, and notes. As you can see, because of the timely assistance provided by Greenbelt, at this time last year, our chicks were a third of the way to hatching. We don’t even have eggs yet this year!

2019 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach 

March 25  Piping Plover pair arrive GHB.

March 27  Symbolic fencing and signage installed by Greenbelt at areas #3 and #1

April 28  First egg laid (estimated date).

May 3  Greenbelt installs wire exclosure.

May 4  Adults begin brooding all four eggs.

May 31  Four chicks hatch.

2020 Piping Plover Timeline Good Harbor Beach

March 22 Piping Plover pair arrive at GHB

March 27  11.5 foot deep narrow strip of symbolic roping is installed along the length of the entire beach. No one has responded from the conservation office re. Is this meant to protect the dunes? It is much, much narrower than the area delineated the previous four years by Greenbelt.  No signs installed at this time.

April 17  Symbolically roped off area widened by boardwalk #3, the area where the PiPls have nested and courted the previous four years. No signs installed at this time.

May 11  A second pair of PiPls is trying to become established at GHB.

May 13  Still no signs, continued dog disturbance, kite flying next to nesting area, human and dog footprints in roped off  #3 area.

Again, the disturbances are not the fault of beachgoers; you can’t blame people if there are no informational signs.

Our Good Harbor beach Mom and Dad courting: Dad digging a nest scrape (1) and bowing (2). Mom coming over to inspect his handiwork (3) and Dad all puffed out and doing the mating dance (4).

Aren’t these PiPl eggs beautiful!? This photo was taken yesterday at another beach I am following. The Plovers at this beach arrived on the very same day to their beach as our Gloucester Plovers arrived to Good Harbor Beach.

 

 

EARTH DAY 1970 -2020: “GOOD MORNING CHICKS!” PIPING PLOVER SHORT FILM

There are few things more adorable than Piping Plover chicks, especially Piping Plover chicks waking up after nestling under Mom or Dad (in this instance Mom). They stretch their tiny wing buds, yawn, and usually zoom away with lightening speed but because it was so cold out on this particular morning, they woke up more slowly than if the temperature were warmer. These chicks were filmed at Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, when they were only three days old.

I find it heartbreaking though just how much garbage washes up and is left behind on beaches. Paper waste is gross; we’ve all seen it and I have footage of chicks getting caught up in toilet paper, seagulls dragging pizza boxes across the beach, and crows eating out of to go containers. Food waste is common, especially after a warm weekend night. Half-eaten discarded food attracts predatory Coyotes and lures chick-eating gulls and crows.

But both food and paper waste will disintegrate eventually. The worst is plastic. It is absolutely everywhere. From the teeniest microplastics to the giant pieces of plastic furniture just simply left behind on the beach

What is the solution?!?

NEW YOU TUBE SHOW – GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN EPISODE #3

 

Good News Cape Ann! – Episode #3

The opening clip is a beautiful scene overlooking Good Harbor Beach. The sun was beginning to appear through a snow squall – April snow squalls bring May flowers.

Good Harbor Beach was jam packed with surfers this morning and Brant Geese were bobbing around at Brace Cove.

Quick glimpse of pretty mystery bird? Palm Warbler?

Fisherman’s Wharf Gloucester fresh fish curbside pickup. Each week they have gotten better and better. It was dream of ease and coronavirus protocols. Tuesday through Saturday and here is the number to call 978-281-7707

Rockport Exchange Virtual Farmer’s Market https://kimsmithdesigns.com/2020/04/19/rockport-exchange-virtual-farmers-market-is-open-heres-how-it-works/

Brother’s Brew, Seaview Farm, Breakwater Roasters, Sandy Bay Soaps, and many more.

What are some of the favorite dishes you are cooking during Coronavirus?

Tragedies can bring out the best in people, but also the very worst. Cruel people only become crueler and more mean spirited, posting mean thoughtless pranks that they think elevate themselves. I wish this wasn’t happening in our own lives and on social media. We all need to support each other.

Share your local business news.

Last episode of the Snowy Owl Film Project at kimsmithdesigns.com

Wonderful hopeful news for our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers. The City has created a safe zone in the spot where they are attempting to nest. Thank you Mayor Sefatia and Gloucester’s DPW for installing the symbolic roping. We need signs and hopefully they will be along very soon.

Thanks so much to everybody for watching 🙂

Possibly a Palm Warbler

 

THANK YOU MAYOR SEFATIA AND THE CITY OF GLOUCESTER FOR FENCING OFF AN AREA FOR THE PIPING PLOVERS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

On Friday, April 17th, a protective area was set aside for the PiPls at Good Harbor Beach. Despite Everything, and I mean Everything the Mayor and the City government have to contend with during the pandemic, they managed to create a symbolically fenced off area to help the birds establish their nesting site..

Endangered/threatened species signs have yet to be installed. I think it is up to each of us as individuals to let people know about the birds. And I mean we need to do this in a very polite, friendly manner, while also maintaining physical distance. There are no nests with eggs as of yet, so if you see a child, person, or pet run through calmly explain to the adult (never approach children please) that we are protecting threatened shorebirds and they need the space within the roped off area to establish their nests. This is often easier said then done, but the most important thing is to remain calm and kind.

Thank you again Mayor Sefatia, the City of Gloucester, and the DPW!

Papa Plover foraging at dusk

 

 

THANK YOU GOVERNOR BAKER AND THE MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION FOR PROTECTING PIPING PLOVERS AT DCR BEACHES!

So proud to live in Massachusetts, a state where the lives of threatened and endangered shorebirds that nest along our coastline, birds such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, and American Oyster Catchers are considered worth protecting.

Despite all that the State government is trying to manage with the pandemic at its very peak, a huge shout out to Governor Baker and his administration for continuing the fight to help protect Piping Plovers. The Governor’s list of essential workers includes natural resource workers and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has placed symbolic roping and threatened species signs on DCR beaches.

For over forty years, people have been working to rebuild the Piping Plover population and it will only add to the coronavirus tragedy if we cease protecting threatened and endangered wildlife.

The PiPls are having a tough time of it this spring, largely because so much of their overwintering habitat was ravished during last year’s Hurricane Dorian. Let’s all work together to share the shore with wildlife and to protect our own Good Harbor Beach Piping Plover family.

Males and females are pairing up at local beaches

Male PiPl building a nest scrape and tossing bits of shells and sand into the scrape.

Female PiPl keeping out of the path of gusty winds.

Winthrop Shore Reservations ‘Five Sisters’

GOOD NEWS CAPE ANN EPISODE #2

Good News Topics include Castaways Big Red Heart, Massachusetts DCR Protecting Piping Plovers, and Snowy Owl final episode.

 

#GLOUCESTERPLOVER ! JOYFUL NEWS TO SHARE – OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PIPING PLOVERS HAVE RETURNED

Daily I have been checking and this afternoon we were overjoyed to see two foraging at low tide at Good Harbor Beach. They were super hungry, looking for food non-stop at the sand bar and in the water.

The PiPls are three days ahead of last year. Each spring they have been arriving earlier and earlier.

The Piping Plovers annual return is an event that I and many others have come to look forward to. Especially this year, not only because they are a sign of hope and renewal during the extremely challenging times we are experiencing but because of the hurricane that destroyed much of their Bahamian habitat last autumn.

Thanks to our amazing crew of volunteers, Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, Gloucester’s DPW, Gloucester City Council, and to all our Piping Plover friends, three chicks successfully fledged at Good Harbor Beach last summer. Let’s stay positive for another fantastic year with our PiPl family!

BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL DUXBURY!

Snapshots from beautiful Duxbury

A new twist on a dream home -living in a Lighthouse House. The private home is sited at the beginning of the wooden Powder Point Bridge.

Wonderful fun to drive across Powder Point Bridge, which was at one time the oldest and longest wooden bridge in the US. It lost that status when the bridge was damaged by fire and completely rebuilt in the late 1980s. The bridge is one of two ways for the public to access Duxbury Beach.

Duxbury Beach, like Crane Beach and Plum Island, is a barrier beach that is home to Piping Plovers in the summer and Snowy Owls during the winter months. Read more about Duxbury Beach here.

“Our mission is to restore and to preserve the beaches in so far as reasonably possible in their natural state as host to marine life, native and migratory birds and indigenous vegetation, as barrier beaches for the protection of Duxbury and Kingston and as a priceless environmental asset to the Commonwealth and the nation; and to operate for the benefit of the people of Duxbury and the general public a public recreational beach with all necessary and incidental facilities, while preserving the right to limit and regulate such use so as to be consistent with the corporation’s primary ecological objective.”

Duxbury cranberry bog

WELCOMING BACK GLOUCESTER’S PIPING PLOVERS AND WHY BANDING OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH NESTING PAIR IS NOT A GOOD IDEA

Hello dear Piping Plover Friends and Partners,

As are you, I am looking forward to the return of our Gloucester Plovers. With the relatively mild winter we are experiencing, and the fact they have been arriving earlier and earlier each spring, we could be seeing our tiny shorebird friends in little over a month.

About this time of year I imagine well wishers and monitors are becoming anxious, wondering if our PiPls survived all the challenges winter brings to migrating birds.

Gloucester’s Mated Piping Plover Pair, Mama in the background, Dad in the fore.

Last August at the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, I met Professor Paton. He is involved with a program that bands and nanotags birds at Southern New England beaches, mostly Rhode Island beaches. He provided some terrific maps based on the data collected from the banding program.

After departing Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the majority of the program’s tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

Although our Good Harbor Beach Piping plovers are not tagged, there is no reason to believe that they too are not traveling this route.

As you can see in the map above, it’s easy to understand why the majority of Southern New England PiPls stage in North Carolina.

Why wouldn’t we want to tag out GHB family? Not often publicized is the down side of tagging. Some species of birds adapt well to tagging and some, like Piping Plovers, develop life threatening problems like leg movement disorder. But most troubling of all is that small sticks and other debris can become lodged between the skin and the tag, which causes the area to become infected, which has lead to loss of leg. Tiny shorebirds like Piping Plovers use their legs to propel them all over the beach, to both forage and escape danger. Left crippled by the loss of a leg, the birds will barely survive another year. At one point several years back there was even a moratorium placed on banding plovers.

Perhaps if we had dozens of pairs of Piping Plovers nesting all over around Cape Ann it would be worth the risk of banding a bird or two. But with only one nesting pair, coupled with the typical survival rate of Piping Plovers at less than five years, why not let our one pair nest in peace? Plovers at popular city beaches need all the help they can get from their human stewards. I for one am happy to simply imagine where our GHB PiPls spend the winter.

If you have ever been to a New Jersey beach, you might be sickened as was I to see birds with no less than eight tags, four on each leg. It doesn’t make sense to me in this day and age why one band wouldn’t suffice. Each time the bird was spotted the one set of data  provided by one tag could be recorded in a national database.

According to coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations, Jeff Denoncour, this past year (2019), 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks at Crane Beach. They do not band birds at Crane Beach, nor are birds banded at other beaches where the PiPl has been successfully increasing in population, including Winthrop Shore Reservations and Revere Beach.

The species existence is precarious. In 2000 at Crane Beach just 12 fledglings survived 49 pairs and that was because of a major storm. Considering all that a Piping Plover pair has to face at the city’s most popular beach, we don’t need to decrease their chances of survival.

It’s wonderful and reassuring to see updated reports of banded birds we have observed at Good Harbor Beach however, because of data collected in the past, we can fairly accurately imagine where our little family resides during the winter. Banding a single pair will only serve to satisfy our own curiosity, and will do nothing to increase the bird’s chance of survival.

ETM, spotted last year by PiPl monitor Heather Hall at Good Harbor Beach, is currently spending the winter on Cumberland Island, Georgia.

Seven too many bands on this bird!!! Bands are placed both above and below the tibiotarsal joint on plovers (terns are given bands below the tibiotarsal joint only). There are eight possible band locations on a bird’s leg according to banding schemes: The Upper Left Upper, Upper Left Lower (left leg, above the tibiotarsal joint), Lower Left Upper, Lower Left Lower (left leg, below the tibiotarsal joint), Upper Right Upper, Upper Right Lower (right leg, above the tibiotarsal joint), Lower Right Upper, and Lower Right Lower (right leg below the tibiotarsal joint).Looking forward to the upcoming Piping Plover season!

Grant helps plovers have record year on Crane Beach, featuring Jeff Denoncour —

ROTARY CLUB PAID FOR THREE SOLAR-POWERED ELECTRIC FENCES

IPSWICH — Those little birds you see running around the beach don’t have it easy.

Although they have wings, they won’t fly to trees to build their nests. Instead, they scoop holes, or “scrapes,” in the sand and lay their eggs there.

And that’s an invitation for all kinds of trouble: predators, rogue waves, dogs, or clumsy or malicious humans.

Combined with widespread loss of habitat, piping plovers are now on the federal government’s threatened species list. One estimate says there are just 8,400 left worldwide.

But along with lease terns, which are protected in Massachusetts, the plovers are well taken care of on Crane Beach.

In fact, they were so well taken care of in 2019 that a record number of chicks fledged and are now ready for the next perilous phase of their lives — a migration to the Bahamas.

This year, 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks, said Jeff Denoncour, coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations.

The last year that good for the birds was in 1999, when 44 pairs produced 89 fledglings, he added.

To show how precarious the species’ existence can be, Denoncour said the year 2000 was disastrous. Just 12 fledglings survived despite the efforts of 49 pairs. “That was due to a major storm,” he explained.

READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE

Jeff Denoncour and Courtney Richardson last year at Jeff’s program on coastal ecology held at the Cape Ann Museum

PRAYERS FOR THE PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE OF THE BAHAMIAN ISLANDS

Stay safe little fledgling!

It’s heartbreaking to read about the death and devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian. Never having been, but greatly wishing to go someday, our hearts go out to the people of this beautiful and magical archipelago, the Bahamas.

Several friends have written asking about what happens to shorebirds, especially the Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers, during a monster hurricane like Dorian. Some lose their lives, some are blown far off course and hopefully, more will survive than not.

One somewhat reassuring thought regarding the Piping Plovers that are tagged in Massachusetts and Rhode Island is that they may not yet have left the States. After departing Massachusetts and RI, a great many tagged PiPls are soon found foraging on the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Cape Lookout National Seashore, and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA. Data suggests that the Outer Banks are a priority stopover site for Piping Plovers well into the late summer. After leaving our shores, southern New England Piping Plovers spend on average 45 days at NC barrier beaches before then heading to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

A male Piping Plover that I have been documenting since April, nicknamed Super Dad, still in Massachusetts at his breeding grounds as of August 28th.

Here is Super Dad watching over his two fledglings, aged 31 days, On August 24th, 2019.

Thirty-one-day-old fledglings sleeping after a morning of intensive foraging and fattening-up.